Constable, Frank Challice

Tagged: Author

(1846-1937) UK lawyer and author, who sometimes published as F C Constable, and sometimes as Colin Clout or Machiavelli Colin Clout. Of his two sf novels, the first – The Curse of Intellect (1895) as Anonymous in UK and as by Machiavelli Colin Clout in the USA – is remarkable for the range of associations it evokes in its recounting of the tragic life of a "monkey". The narrative clearly describes a chimpanzee-like creature which has been brought to conscious life by a rich human (see Apes as Human; Intelligence) and introduced to London society, which is described in terms reminiscent of The Picture of Dorian Gray (July 1890 Lippincott's Monthly; exp 1891) by Oscar Wilde. The monkey's life in that society reflects the similar career of the ape in "Der Affe als Mensch" ["The Ape as Man"] in the second series of Märchenalmanache ["Fairy Tale Almanacs"] (coll 1827) of Wilhelm Hauff (1802-1827); the monkey's recounting of his experiences, which occupies a third of the volume, clearly evokes the similar spiritual autobiography of the Baron's creation (see Frankenstein Monster) in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; Or, the Modern Prometheus (1818); and his psychic and physical shadowing of his creator, whose soul he appropriates, echoes the under-structure of Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886 chap). The book as a whole clearly prefigures H G Wells's The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896); beyond the obvious structural similarities, both novels as well make explicit reference to Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726; rev 1735), most specifically in the perception of the human world as a place of Yahoos. The novel demonstrates, more clearly than almost any other, how complex was the well of associated story-structures and philosophical tropes that Wells transformed, almost overnight, into the Scientific Romance (see History of SF).

Constable's second sf novel, Aunt Judith's Island (1898), less intriguingly suggests that political shenanigans, conducted on a Mediterranean Island purchased for that purpose by the eponymous lady of wealth, may be sufficient almost to cause a Near Future war. [JC]

Frank Challice Constable

born Edmonton, Middlesex: 16 June 1846

died Ascot, Berkshire: 7 October 1937

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